Going Gluten Free

When I decided to go gluten-free, it wasn’t because I’d been diagnosed with celiac disease, although I’ve been told that my symptoms bear a striking resemblance, but it was a personal decision based on a lot of factors. Basically it was an experiment. Assuming that gluten was irritating my gut, we wanted to see if going gluten-free would allow my chronic tummy troubles to improve and my typically low iron levels to normalize.

It took me months to work up to it. Even after my doctor ran a test that concluded that I had a gluten sensitivity, I still balked.

You have to understand, I have never met a carb I don’t like. I live for bread and cake and muffins and sweet rolls and pizza and . . .

When I’d consider going off gluten, my mind would run wild with the what ifs and the what will I do whens. I looked ahead to years of birthday parties and pizza nights and social events and holidays with no. gluten.

No cake, no pizza, no sweet rolls, no muffins, no dinner rolls, no fresh slice of homemade bread still warm from the oven and slathered with butter . . .

But I was also tired of living with stomach discomfort, brain fog, nausea and iron deficiency. So finally one day last fall, I decided to bite the bullet.

I had one last hurrah at my son’s birthday dinner — lasagna and homemade garlic bread and caesar salad loaded with croutons and chocolate birthday cake. I gorged. And I woke up in the night, my body overheated, feeling nauseous and miserable, and I wondered if this would happen once I gave up gluten.

(It hasn’t happened except once when I over indulged on corn chips. I have a feeling that I also have a sensitivity to corn.)

The next day I decided to go cold turkey. I didn’t make it easy on myself. I make homemade bread every week for my children’s sandwiches, and I continue to do that. I often make pancakes or waffles for them for breakfast. I continue to do that too. I chose to start my gluten free journey during the month of November and had to endure various holiday parties and celebrations watching everyone devour homemade yeast rolls, delectable cakes and pies, crackers with their cheese and much more while I went without.

But the amazing thing about it was, even though those things looked good to me, I didn’t crave them. I never wavered in my resolve. Once I made an announcement on my blog and decided to commit to going gluten-free, that was that. I never looked back.

Within a few days, I felt better than I have in years. People often ask, how soon did you notice a difference? Without hesitation, I always say, within 24 hours. It’s the truth. I felt lighter, my gut felt happy (I know no other way to describe it) and odd symptoms that I had never associated with gluten like brain fog and dizziness disappeared.

I decided to write down every possible symptom that was bothering me, in case it was related to gluten. I know how easy it is to forget about symptoms after they’re gone, and I didn’t want to fall into that trap. It’s already hard enough that not everyone takes this seriously. I need to make sure that I take it seriously, that I don’t forget how much better I feel living this way. And if the symptoms don’t go away? I’ll have to try something else. But I decided to give the gluten-free experiment 100% for at least 3 months before I re-evaluate.

The hardest thing about being gluten-free is that you really can’t have even a trace of gluten if you a) want to determine if you are truly sensitive and b) want your body to completely heal. The theory is, when you have food sensitivities, as long as you have those irritants in your body, no matter how few, your body can’t fully heal. I realize there are different views on the food sensitivity issue, but I look at it this way, at least it can’t hurt. As Nora Gedgaudas says, “No one ever had a gluten deficiency.”

This morning marks four months since I went gluten free. I have not knowingly eaten gluten since. I just pulled out my list of symptoms, and I can decidedly say that within the past four months, my skin has improved, the gassiness and bloating I used to experience with regularity is gone, my heartburn is much improved, and the brain fog and occasional dizzy spells are gone.

I have yet to get my iron levels tested, but the way I feel right now, I don’t ever want to go back to eating gluten. In fact, everyone I meet who has any type of ailment, I tell them to try going off gluten. I’m like the gluten-free evangelist. I know not everyone is sensitive to it, but I do think we as a culture eat way too much. Now if I could get myself off of sugar, I’d be all set!